An international team of scientists will tackle the challenge of improving feed efficiency in swine through a $5 million grant-funded project coordinated by Iowa State University.
"This project is to improve the efficiency with which the pig converts feed into edible consumer products. Feed is increasingly expensive and food on this planet is becoming increasingly scarce. It's very important that all aspects of agriculture continue to improve efficiency," says John Patience, an Iowa State animal scientist who will direct the project funded by a grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
It takes the nation's swine industry an average of about 3 pounds of feed to produce a pound of gain in the pig. A 5% improvement in that feed conversion rate would mean a reduction of 2 million tons of feed a year worth nearly one-half a billion dollars.
Very important for U.S. pork producers, given the rising cost of feed
"This is extremely important to our pork industry, given the rising cost of corn and other feed ingredients," he said. "Improving feed efficiency also will benefit the consumer through lower food prices."
The project is two-thirds research combined with a "very aggressive" extension component, in partnership with Kansas State University, to inform swine producers of the results and provide recommendations. Patience stressed that the work will be done under real-world conditions and the goal is to strengthen the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry.
"We're going to take the information generated in our research herd and we're going to test it and evaluate it under commercial conditions," he said.
Goal: strengthen the long-term competitiveness of U.S. pork industry
Several Iowa State scientists will join researchers from Kansas State; the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service; Australia's Pork Cooperative Research Centre; the Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique in France; and the University of Saskatchewan in Canada.
Those involved in the research have organized an international conference on feed efficiency in swine that will result in a book of research in the area. The conference will be Nov. 8 and 9 in Omaha and more information is available at: http://www.ans.iastate.edu/ICFES/.
Patience joined the ISU faculty in 2008, coming from the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada, a private research facility he helped established that is affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan. He has been involved in swine research since 1985 and has worked in the pig industry since 1974.